Students blog

Explore the latest trends, tips, and experiences in college life in this blog written by fellow students.

Explore posts in other areas.

PreK-12Higher EducationProfessional

  • blog image alt text

    5 Subjects You Had No Idea You Could Study Online

    Dan Ketchum, Blog Contributor

    Online learning offers plenty of forward-thinking flexibility, and it’s that same creative spirit that inspires universities to use the virtual classroom as a scholarly playground, a place to offer classes that might be a little more experimental than those you’d find on a physical campus. When it comes to online courses, learn to expect the unexpected—from comic books to feng shui, these programs deliver the novelty factor, but they also pack plenty of real-world utility. Because sometimes, it pays to try something new.

    Comic Books and Graphic Novels

    In 2013, comic books and graphic novels raked in $870 million in sales—and that staggering figure does not include money made from comic-derived films, which grossed in excess of $4.7 billion the following year. Everything about comics is big: big muscles, big stakes, and big business.

    Industries that span the spectrum of film, TV, video games, print, merchandising, and more are bound to come in contact with some superhero spandex, a fact that makes comic book studies a surprisingly versatile subject. Emerson College’s Graphic Novel Writing and Illustration online program includes an entire web-focused class dedicated to exploring e-book distribution and cultivating online audiences, bringing a traditional American pop-cultural staple into an online-savvy age. For a broader lens, there’s the Smithsonian Institution’s online course, The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture. The Internet hosts more online comic-book classes than Bruce Wayne has bat-themed gadgets, and for good reason: high-def e-readers and multimedia-friendly computers make the virtual classroom an ideal format for this highly visual medium.

    Animal Behavior

    If Batman-oriented studies aren’t enough, online learners can delve into the bats themselves—virtual animal behavior courses like Colorado State University’s Introduction to Animal Behavior aren’t just for veterinarians and lab researchers. Studying animal behavior enlightens students on animal rights and welfare issues, but they’ll also learn why social scientists and psychologists have long used animal behavior as an interpretive lens for human society. Understanding animal behavior helps both students and educators deepen their understanding of human behavior, and you’d be hard pressed to find a professional field or area of study where human behavior doesn’t enter the equation.


    Studying aromatherapy is a lot more nuanced than sniffing candles. This essential oil therapy traces its history back more than 6,000 years, with roots in pioneering Greek, Chinese, and Indian healing. When French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse applied lavender oil to a laboratory burn in 1928, he began to discover medicinal properties in these all-natural fragrances, which have been used to combat everything from alopecia to insomnia.

    For both hobbyists and budding healthcare professionals, expanding educational horizons into alternative medicine lends a fresh (and fresh-smelling) perspective—the American College of Healthcare Sciences’ Certificate in Aromatherapy is just one program to explore. Nationally accredited courses like this one present a succinct example of precisely what makes the virtual classroom so effective. It creates a classroom experience that combines the strengths of both online and hands-on, real-world learning. In this case, learners have the opportunity to blend essential oils at home, while being guided by plentiful online feedback and virtual learning resources that adhere to their own individual schedules.

    The Zombie Apocalypse

    Just like animals, zombies (yes, zombies) help us better understand human behavior in a way that applies to a surprising range of disciplines. And we’re not just making that one up—Michigan State University has our back with an online course called “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse—Disasters, Catastrophes and Human Behavior”. MSU’s course could only happen in the virtual classroom—it’s a group simulation of a survival scenario presented through custom-made videos of a fictional zombie apocalypse. Students react, cooperate, explore, and make decisions in real-time as part of what the university calls a Multimedia Online Learning Immersive Experience (MOLIE).

    Does your curriculum cover law enforcement? The military? Everyone from future police officers to aspiring emergency managers benefits from immersing themselves in a theoretical apocalypse, which brings to light issues including class systems, gender politics, and disaster management.

    Feng Shui

    It’s no surprise that the New York Institute of Art + Design offers an online Feng Shui Interior Design Course. The ancient Chinese practice, which marries spatial planning and philosophy, is a natural part of almost any interior design program, but its principles aren’t limited to one field. Like the most effective online learning experiences, the virtual feng shui classroom combines audiovisual instruction with tactile learning, tasking students with placing items in the real world and sharing photos and videos of their arrangements in online forums. Think of it as a macro version of a social network with an exclusive focus on feng shui education.

    Everyone from architects to graphic artists and style consultants to industrial designers can learn something from the yin, the yang, and the Five Room Elements of feng shui—and an online feng shui intro could easily spice up a run-of-the-mill philosophy curriculum. But even if you don’t fall into any of those categories, brushing up on this ancient practice ensures that you’ll have the most zen-friendly workspace, classroom, or home on the block.


    • Business Insider: The Comic Book Industry Is On Fire, and It’s About More Than Just the Movies
    • CNBC: Why Comic Books Are Big Business
    • University of Maryland Medical Center: Aromatherapy
    • California State University, Northridge: Significance of Animal Behavior Research
    • Business Insider: Even Military and Police Want to Take This College Zombie Survival Course